December 26, 2017 9:29 pm
Updated: December 27, 2017 12:31 am

Canada-Venezuela relations deteriorate amid diplomatic crisis

WATCH: Montreal’s Venezuelan community says it’s concerned about tensions between the Canadian and Venezuelan governments in light of recent diplomatic instability. Global’s Howard Cohen reports.


MONTREAL—Venezuela’s ambassador to Canada is being expelled by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The decision comes two days after Venezuela expelled Canada’s top diplomat in Caracas.

Venezuelan ambassador Wilmer Omar Barrientos Fernandez had already been withdrawn by his government to protest Canadian sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland addressed the heightened tensions between Ottawa and Caracas in a statement, which read: “Canadians will not stand by as the Government of Venezuela robs its people of their fundamental democratic and human rights, and denies them access to basic humanitarian assistance.”

READ MORE: Canada expels Venezuelan ambassador in diplomatic tit-for-tat

Canadian-Venezuelan David Ramirez moved to Montreal in 1993. He’s been pushing for democracy in his home country ever since.

He says Fernandez was one of the “key players” who supported Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro during his rise to power.

According to Ramirez, the recently ousted ambassador was tasked with making sure nobody stood in Maduro’s way, even if it required “bringing out the tanks.”

Under Maduro’s rule, Venezuela has experienced a humanitarian crisis and the suppression of political dissent. Inflation has devastated the economy as Venezuelans struggle to make ends meet.

Escaping the chaos and hoping for a brighter future, Claudia and Kaarina Lopez left Venezuela at a young age. Their parents came with them to Montreal, but they still have extended family back home.

Claudia welcomes Canada’s decision to expel Venezuela’s top diplomat, hoping the move could help bring about positive change in Caracas. She says she believes the action could help make the world aware of Venezuela’s “human rights violations.”

READ MORE: Venezuelan government releases 36 anti-Maduro activists from prison in Christmas gesture

As a dual national, Kaarina is torn when she sees her two homelands at odds. “It is sad to see the relations break. Being on good terms with a country like Canada is very beneficial to Venezuela,” she noted.

Pressure on the Maduro regime has been increasing in recent months. In August, the United States imposed financial sanctions on Venezuela after labeling Maduro a “dictator.”

In September, Canada followed suit, imposing sanctions against 40 Venezuelan senior officials to punish the government of Venezuela for “anti-democratic behaviour.”


© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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